Magic: The Playing Card Game


I was a big fan of Magic: The Gathering in the late 90s, when I was in high school, but the collectible nature of it led to a lot of complexity, since crafting a deck (or set of decks!) for competitive play was a huge part of the game.

I found a version that uses only regular playing cards online some years ago on a forum that linked to a Word document. These are the notes I adapted from that document. Because of the generic title, I haven't been able to locate the original source online because all the links take me to pages about Magic: The Gathering.


Magic is a game for two players, with each player having their own standard deck of 52 cards and two jokers.

Each player shuffles their deck and draws 7 cards as their starting hand. The remainder is placed to the right as the library. The graveyard is below the library. Each player begins the game with 20 life. Players take turns.

The objective of the game is to use Heroes, Monsters, and Spells to decrease the life points of the opponent to zero or less.


Turns have five phases:

  1. Beginning Phase: Untap relics, heroes, and monsters. Draw one card.
  2. Main Phase: Summon monsters and heroes, play a relic, use hero abilities.
  3. Combat Phase: Attack with monsters. Assign blockers and resolve damage. See Combat, below.
  4. 2nd Main Phase: Same as Main Phase.
  5. End Phase: If holding more than seven cards, discard down to seven cards.


Once per turn, any card can be played face down as a relic. Relics can be tapped ⤺ (rotated 90 to the left) to generate one ether, which can be used to summon heroes and monsters.


Face cards can be played as heroes on your turn by paying the ether cost associated with the card’s rank. A hero’s toughness is equal to its ether cost. A hero can be tapped ⤺ during your turn in order to use the ability associated with the card’s suit. When an ability is used, the hero’s max toughness is reduced by 1.

🂫 = 2 🂭 = 4 🂮 = 6 🂡 = 8

Hero abilities:

♥: Tap/untap a monster

♣: Add 1 ether for each monster in control.

♦: Return a monster from play to hand.

♠: Return a monster from the graveyard to hand.


Monsters are played during your turn by paying the ether cost associated with the card’s rank. The monster’s power and toughness is equal to the ether cost of the card. Monsters are all number cards, so the card’s rank is its cost, power, and toughness.

Monsters cannot attack the turn they come into play. Monsters have a special ability according to their suit.

♥ - HASTE: May attack the turn it comes into play.

♣ - TRAMPLE: Damage not blocked hits opponent.

♦ - FLYING: Can only be blocked by another flying creature.

♠ - DEATHTOUCH: Any damage dealt kills the blocking monster.


Attacking: During your turn, you may use monsters to attack an opponent. To do so, tap ⤺ the monster to declare the attack. The monster will deal an amount of damage that is equal to its power.

Blocking: The player being attacked chooses if and how to block the attack, using any combination of untapped monsters and heroes to block. Monsters are not tapped when blocking. If the amount of damage being blocked is greater than the blocking monster’s toughness, the blocking monster dies and is placed in the graveyard. If not, the monster’s toughness is reduced by the amount of damage it took until the beginning of the next turn.


Spells require no ether and can be cast at any time. Spells are ranked. Higher ranked spells counter lower ranked spells.

Spells that deal damage (straights) are targeted, allowing the caster to specify what player, monster, or hero is taking the damage.

Spells that destroy a monster or hero remove it from the game, rather than place it in the graveyard.


(Ranked lowest to highest)

CardsSpell Effect
JokerSearch deck for a card
2 StraightDeal 4 damage
2 Flush2 hero abilities
2 SFDestroy a hero or monster
PairDraw 2 cards
3 StraightDeal 6 damage
3 Flush3 hero abilities
3 SFDestroy all heroes & monsters
3 of a kindDraw 3 cards
4 StraightDeal 8 damage
4 Flush4 hero abilities
4 SFDestroy all opponent’s heroes & monsters
4 of a kindDraw 4 cards
5 StraightDeal 10 damage
5 Flush5 hero abilities
5 SFYour heroes & monsters have protection from spells & abilities